Best Ways to Drain & Protect a Sprinkler System from Freezing

SprinklerDo you have a sprinkler system for your yard, lawn, or garden, and you’re concerned about whether it will survive the harsh weather conditions of winter?

Winterizing a sprinkler system incorrectly could lead to having to purchase a new one or damage to your precious garden, lawn, or watered area.

If the sprinklers go ignored, the pipes will burst due to water freezing, and should the pipes not burst then there’s a good chance there will be some kind of cracking damage to the pipes.

If you want to properly winterize your sprinkler system this winter, be sure to follow the guide down below, and with each section we’ve tried to add a video to help you further.

How-to Guide to Prep Your Sprinkler System for Winter

Drain the sprinkler system of water

Remember earlier when I mentioned that the pipes can burst? This can happen due to the water in the system freezing and causing a build of up ice which will cause the pipes to burst.

To drain your sprinklers, go to the backflow valve which should be connected to your house’s water source. Shut the valve and open the drain. This will allow any trapped water to exit the system.

To be fully sure all water is out, use compressed air to blow out all remaining water. It’s easy to think all of the water has been drained, but double-check before moving on.

A lot of the time there is still some water left that gets overlooked so be sure that all of the water is completely gone.

How to Drain a Sprinkler System (Watch Video)

How to Drain Your Sprinkler System for Winter?

Simple tips to follow to drain your sprinkler system

Blow Out Water with Air compressor

For the air compressor model, it’s recommended to use a 10 cubic-feet-per-minute model. Each sprinkler system is unique and different in size so having the manual with the dimensions will come in handy when finding the right air compressor to use.

Once you are sure you have the best model, adjust the pressure gauge to 80 psi for PVC pipe systems and 50 psi for polyethylene pipe systems. It’s important to not go over this amount as this can cause cracking in your pipes.

Since you will be blowing the water out zone by zone, start with the zone that’s the furthest away. Open the air compressor valve to blow air into the system.

Be sure to be wearing protective eye gear while doing this as sometimes things can pop from too much pressure. The eye gear needs to be ANSI approved. This will offer the maximum protection for your eyes.

Once you’ve done all of the zones, go back and open the backflow valves, and the waste valves so you can drain whatever is left. To make sure everything is completely drained, go back and drain everyone zone a second time.

This may seem tedious because you have to put in extra work, but the extra work is well worth the effort.

How to Blow out Your Sprinkler System (Watch Video)

How to Blow out Your Sprinkler System

Simple tips to follow to blow out your sprinkler system

Protect the Main valve

The main valve can be a headache to deal with at times. This is because the main valve has water right behind it which makes it more prone to being exposed.

To keep the main valve protected, purchase some insulating foam, and wrap it around the pipe. You can use zip ties to tie the foam around the pipe.

If your system has a removable pump, make sure to disconnect it and then bring it inside. Be sure to cover this with an insulated blanket.

After all of this is done, you need to shut down the control panel. You can either disconnect the power or, if you have this, go to the control panel and use the winter mode and select that.  It will keep everything in good shape until winter is over.

Now, some people like to also tie a plastic bag on top, I personally don’t think this is needed but if you would like to add a plastic bag, then there’s no harm in that.

Take Extra Precaution when Winterizing!

This entire process is very dangerous due to the equipment being used so there are some extra precautions you should take note of to avoid possible damage and/or injury.

Don’t leave the flow sensors installed. In order to avoid the flow sensors from being damaged, remove the flow sensors first, and seal the pipe.  While the system is being pressurized with air, don’t stand over the components.

Always, and I mean always, keep an eye on the air compressor.

Don’t blow the system out through backflow or pump. A lot of people get confused by this but you need to first blow out the system. Once you’ve done that, drain the backflow and pump.

And finally, do not keep the manual valve open after everything has been blown out. Keep it closed to prevent damage from happening.

Have a Helper

Doing all of this on your own is pretty difficult. It’s not impossible to do on your own but if you have someone who can handle the equipment safely, ask them if they can help you out.

This will make winterizing your sprinkler system much easier and get done at a faster rate.

But if you don’t have anyone, it’s best to do it on your own. I wouldn’t recommend trying to have someone who has little experience handling this equipment to assist you.

This can not only lead to an increased chance of injury for them, but it also increases your chance of getting injured. For your own safety, It’s best if you do this on your own.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if I have PVC pipes?

Since the 1950’s PVC pipes are the pipes that have been the most commonly used. They are easily identifiable as they are usually white and made of plastic.

They also tend to have markings running down the length of the pipe as an indicator that you have a PVC pipe system.

Where should I store my air compressor?

Air compressors should always be kept indoors where the temperature and environment are stable. The location also needs to be dry to prevent moisture damage to the air compressor.

Don’t have the compressor exposed directly to sunlight. It needs to be in a cool and well-ventilated area with the temperature preferably 59 or 15C.

The compressor should not be surrounded by other objects just in case something falls over.  If you do all of this, your compressor should be safe and sound.